Notes: Cowles says WKU a team, not just one ‘superstar’

Cole Claybourn

During Wednesday’s Sun Belt Conference women’s basketball teleconference, Head Coach Mary Taylor Cowles had one message that she repeated several times: there isn’t one superstar on this year’s team.

Cowles spoke a day after both seniors Arnika Brown and Amy McNear were named to the All-Sun Belt’s first team.

“They’re both very nice players,” Cowles said. “But the two of them are not going to win basketball games for us by themselves. I think (Brown and McNear) being experienced players will provide a lot for our team. But at the same time, those two really value what their other teammates can bring for us to be successful.”

Lady Toppers not putting much stock in preseason selection

WKU was selected to finish first in the Sun Belt’s East Division on Tuesday by the league’s coaches.

The news wasn’t anything that left Cowles feeling excited.

“Our league is really good, so I don’t know what a preseason poll really tells you,” she said. “As in everything in life, it’s not how you start, but how you finish. We don’t look at this season any differently. We have our visions on how we end this in March.

“It’s a situation where hopefully we use it as motivation, but we need to take what we’ve got talent-wise and move forward so that at the end of the season we can feel good about where we are.”

While Cowles wasn’t impressed, South Alabama Head Coach Rick Petri was.

“It’s easy to see why they were picked to finish first in the East,” Petri said. “With two preseason All-conference players, they’re going to be good. Brown is a vacuum on the glass.”

Freshmen expected to play big role

Cowles said even with eight upperclassmen, the three freshmen — guards Chaney Means and Ellen Sholtes and forward Mimi Hill — won’t see their value on the team get overshadowed.

“What we accomplish this year will be done as a team,” she said. “We’re going to need each other night in and night out. We’ve already proven that in practice.

“But they’ve got to be as much a part of our success as the other nine on our team. I think they each play a different role and they have to all be a part of this for us to be as good as we can be.”

Cowles, players “hungry” for tough schedule

Cowles said this year’s schedule will be the toughest of her career. It’s highlighted by home games against Northwestern and Texas Tech and road games against Duke and Vanderbilt. WKU is also slated to play Michigan State in the UCF Thanksgiving Classic on Nov. 26.

Cowles said she knows it won’t be an easy road, but added that she wouldn’t have put the tough schedule together if she didn’t think the players could handle it.

“To be the best, you’ve got to play the best,” Cowles said. “If you talk about just our conference itself, we’re going to be challenged night in and night out. Our conference is extremely strong as a league, so we need to be ready to play every night.

“We have to take the same approach to our non-conference schedule. We’ve never been afraid to play anybody or go anywhere. I think we’ve put together a great schedule with competition every single night. But I think that’s the way our young ladies like it. They want to be challenged. They’re hungry.”

Lady Toppers not dwelling on last year’s non-conference woes

WKU struggled to find a signature win in non-conference play last season, losing all four games against BCS opponents.

Cowles said the team understands that it has to win those games. And while the Lady Toppers know that they’ve struggled in the past, Cowles said they have reason to believe the results will be much different this season.

“Not only is it a new season, but this is a different basketball team,” she said. “I think this year’s team has some different things going on that provide for success. No. 1 is team chemistry. Obviously you have to score points and get rebounds. But those kinds of things like team chemistry play a big part in success. This team understands that.”